It’s interesting how little everyday occurrences in life can sometime trigger thoughts back to traumatic experiences in your early years. This morning as I was loading my biscuits up with “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter”, I found my self regressing back to a simpler time in life. It brought to mind one particular high school Health class in Brownwood Texas about 1960 or 61 in which I became emotionally scared for a number of years afterward.
I grew up in a time when nobody really knew much about trans fats, calories, carbohydrates and the like and they didn’t really care. There were no health food stores or even “health food isles” in grocery stores like there are today. Nobody I knew ever got up, had a protein drink and ran off to the gym before work. Nobody ever sat around discussing what foods were healthy and what clogged your arteries and what added years to your life expectancy, etc. etc. Most people were aware that Margarine (as it was formulated then) was a health Issue and wasn’t even approved for human consumption in all 50 states until Wisconsin removed restrictions on it in 1967. As a kid we always had real butter. Occasionally it was real butter we had made ourselves by skimming the cream off the top of fresh cows’ milk and shaking it in a Mason jar until it turned to butter. My Mom would do the skimming because it had to be done “just right” and I would do the shaking because it took a long time a required a lot of effort. You could buy “unprocessed” milk in every grocery store in town in the 60’s and often we would drive out to some of the dairys just outside town and buy it while it was still warm. It would get mixed up a little on the way home but you just let it set for an hour or so and all the cream would come to the top again.
But back to health class- In this particular health class we were studying nutrition “as it was known then” and we were given an assignment to inventory what we ate in a day and to calculate how many calories we had consumed. Understand that we were poor like a lot of other people in the Texas Hill Country in those days and this was a time in my life when I was just beginning to feel a little peer pressure. I was just starting to realize that some of the other kids had so much more than me and feeling somewhat underprivileged. Up to this point I had never thought about the “food thing” being any different among my more affluent classmates. Needless to say we didn’t always have the best food to eat at our house but I don’t remember ever going hungry.
Anyway, this was a morning class and we started the assignment in class by recording what we had for breakfast. I don’t recall what I had for lunch and dinner that day but I remember well writing down what I had for breakfast- 2 Pillsbury Biscuits and 2 large pats of butter. That night for homework I was making guesses and totaling up calories from a mimeographed chart the teacher had given us but nowhere on it could I locate the amount of calories in a pat of butter. We didn’t have the Internet to consult back then and I decided my only option was to get this last answer in class the next morning and do a quick total then.
The next morning I raised my hand and asked the teacher, “how many calories are in a pat of butter”. The question immediately drew a few snickers from the class and a look of bewilderment from the teacher. Then the conversation went something like this.
Teacher: Why do you ask?
Me: I always put a big pat of butter on my biscuits in the morning but I can’t figure out how many calories to add for that.
Teacher: Oh there’s not enough nutritional value in a pat of butter to even count it. Just figure the calories for the biscuits and everything else you ate for breakfast.
Me: That’s all I had for breakfast.
That raised somewhat of a ruckus in the room because everyone including the teacher seemed to think that was funny. Naturally I was pretty embarrassed at their response but looking back I can laugh at the whole scenario myself. I can laugh at me for being so vain and I can laugh at them for being so ignorant.